Despite its booming tourism, the City of Love still has some tricks up its sleeve. Forget never ending queues at the Eiffel Tower and go in search of some hidden gems. From wacky museums, suspended gardens and the world’s biggest balloon, the discoveries are endless if you know where to look for them. Delve deeper into the city’s dark history in the underground passageways and release your inner hipster when you explore some of the trendier neighbourhoods. Take the road less travelled and venture out to Paris’ oddly charming corners – you’ll be surprised at what you find.
Here’s our list of seven unusual things to do and see in Paris.
As one of the most densely populated cities on the planet, you’ll find there’s always more to the picturesque streets than meets the eye. Go for a stroll down some of the quieter lanes and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere away from the hustle and bustle of the urban grind. Guaranteed to be free from throngs of tourists, the city has five isolated villages for you to explore, each resembling little countryside towns. Stop by the trendy flea markets in Belleville, wander along the tree-lined rues of Caulaincourt and drink in the authentically French ambiance wafting through the suburban arrondissements.
Look to the skies for the ultimate bird’s eye view of the city. Go up in the world’s biggest balloon and see the sights of Paris 150 metres above the ground. Since 1999, the tethered helium balloon has been operating out of the park offering visitors the chance to view the capital from a unique vantage point. You won’t find anything else like it!
Lurking underneath the city, Paris’ dark history is alive and well for you to discover. Go beyond the glossy veneer and delve deeper into the tales of murderous kings, overflowing graves and ghosts of the past in the Catacombs and other abandoned tunnels. Learn how bloody events shaped the capital just as much as prosperous ones did and test your nerve as you unfold the secrets of the Revolutionary Terror buried in the walls and banks of the city. Not for the faint hearted, there’s tones of walks and museums to indulge horror fanatics.
Another chance to take in some of the best panoramas of the city, the neoclassical landmark in the heart of the Jewish Quarter has a viewing platform 35 metres above the streets below. Skip the queues for the Eiffel Tower and see the Iron Lady, Notre Dame and plenty of other iconic monuments from the dome of the Pantheon. Located in the fifth arrondissement, the mausoleum is nicknamed the ‘balcony of Paris’, by locals because of its 360 degree views over the city. Don’t worry, the 206 steps are so worth it when you see what’s waiting for you at the top.
A weekend in Paris seems to go hand in hand with a day-trip to Versailles but what happens when you’ve been there, done that? Instead of moving with the tourists to the former palace of Marie Antoinette, leave them behind and head to the medieval village of Provins. Only an hour outside of the city, the historical town is marked as a UNESCO World Heritage site and is bursting with impressive architecture. Alternatively, spend the afternoon strolling through the grounds of Chateau de Vaux le Vicomte, the baroque castle in Maincy, 55 kilometres away. Just outside the north bounds of Paris, St-Denis Basilica, a gothic style pilgrimage site and burial place is often overlooked for Notre Dame but is a much better option if you’re looking for a crowd-free experience. Escape the overwhelming urbanity of the city’s streets and take refuge at Bois de Boulogne, the dense woodland surrounding the outskirts, and visit the Louis Vuitton Art Foundation and Jardin d’Acclimation.
Forget what you know and enter into the world of weird and wonderful at some of Paris’ wacky museums. Spark your curiosity and take the time to explore the likes of the Museum of Romantics, Fairground Museum, Counterfeit Museum and the Museum of Comparative Anatomy and Palaeontology. A highlight of the underground museums, the Sewers of Paris Museum in the seventh arrondissement, documents the history of the central drain. Cheap and cheerful, most places won’t cost you more than ten euro so are well worth adding to your list of what to do and see in Paris.
Paris’ answer to the High Line in New York, the former elevated railway track is a hidden oasis in the midst of the city. Lined with trees and flowers, the promenade referred to by locals as La Coulee Verte, stretches from Bastille to Gare de Lyon and Bercy, finishing at the west entrance of Bois de Vincennes. After you’ve spent some time relaxing in the gardens, head down to street level and walk along exploring the workshops, ateliers, cafes and galleries of Viaduc des Arts.
Heading to Paris soon? Make sure to tag us in your photos of the best things to see and do in Paris using the hashtag #ryanairstories for the chance to be featured on Ryanair’s social media feed.
Flights to Paris
- Lucy Norris